Lefties now hounding Kyrsten Sinema while she's on the toilet

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Following a legislator into the restroom to shout at her while she does her business isn’t an act of lobbying, it’s an act of intimidation. It communicates in any unusually intimate way that the assailants won’t respect her personal boundaries.

Which must be uncomfortable, if not frightening, when you’re alone and cornered. Time to get yourself a security detail, senator.

Does this happen to Joe Manchin or Mitt Romney or Susan Collins or other centrists, by the way? Does Rob Portman have activists hounding him while he’s dropping a deuce?

It would have been funny if she had burst out of the stall and announced sarcastically, “YOU’VE CONVINCED ME. LET’S DO $10 TRILLION ON RECONCILIATION.”

The irony is that they’re badgering her to do something that’s beyond her power to do. The reason a path to citizenship for illegals isn’t in the reconciliation bill isn’t because of Sinema, it’s because the Senate parliamentarian twice ruled that that process can’t be used to pass immigration reform. Even with Sinema in favor, Schumer would either need 60 votes to advance an immigration amnesty through regular legislation or he’d need his caucus to agree to overrule the parliamentarian, a precedent that would swallow the entirety of Senate legislation in short order.

Meghan McCain, one of Sinema’s constituents, claimed this morning that the clips above amount to a felony under Arizona law. Is she right? Criminal Code § 13-3019:

A. It is unlawful for any person to knowingly photograph, videotape, film, digitally record or by any other means secretly view, with or without a device, another person without that person’s consent under either of the following circumstances:

1. In a restroom, bathroom, locker room, bedroom or other location where the person has a reasonable expectation of privacy and the person is urinating, defecating, dressing, undressing, nude or involved in sexual intercourse or sexual contact.

2. In a manner that directly or indirectly captures or allows the viewing of the person’s genitalia, buttock or female breast, whether clothed or unclothed, that is not otherwise visible to the public.

B. It is unlawful to disclose, display, distribute or publish a photograph, videotape, film or digital recording made in violation of subsection A of this section without the consent or knowledge of the person depicted.

It’s a class 4 felony if the person filmed is recognizable. (Which in this case means their face isn’t obscured, I’m sure, not that they’re famous.) It makes for an interesting question for the courts. Obviously filming someone *inside the stall* would violate the statute, but does filming inside the restroom while they’re hidden inside a stall violate it? I’d say yes, partly because we want to discourage this behavior broadly and partly because the law is obviously aimed at sparing someone embarrassment in a private moment. And the audio of a person using a restroom could embarrass them even if the video doesn’t.

Anyway, now that the president has endorsed progressives’ hardball tactics in the House by encouraging them to block his own bipartisan bill, you’d think the lefties filming Sinema here would be content. Why aren’t they? Maybe they’ve come to realize, as Bill Scher points out, that their victory last week in stopping the roads-and-bridges bill was a hollow one. What did they actually accomplish?

What was the point of progressives trying to gain leverage by holding the bipartisan infrastructure bill hostage, if Manchin and Sinema are going to end up largely dictating the terms of the BBB [reconciliation] package anyway?

The quest for leverage is not a zero-sum game. The enhancement of House progressive stature doesn’t change Senate math. In a narrowly divided House, with minimal bipartisanship, progressives can block bills they deem insufficiently ambitious. But that power doesn’t give them the ability to force Manchin and Sinema to pass their preferred bills in a narrowly divided Senate.

Lefties blocked the bipartisan bill in the belief that Manchin and Sinema are so invested in that bill’s success that they’d have no choice but to give the left what it wants by coming to terms on a reconciliation bill. But that’s not true. Manchin and Sinema understand keenly that Biden and House Dems desperately need a win before the midterms, and the sooner, the better. If they turned around tomorrow and declared that they won’t pass a reconciliation bill, period, most House progressives would eventually cave and pass the bipartisan bill anyway simply to prove to swing voters that their party can do big things when given control of government.

No one has any real leverage over Sinema and, especially, Manchin, in other words. In fact, a new TIPP poll out today finds that independents oppose the $3.5 trillion reconciliation plan that progressives favor, 45/51. For all the hype about how Sinema is misjudging the sentiment of voters, she seems reasonably in tune with what a 50/50 purple state like Arizona might prefer. And although lefties are eager to primary her now, they’ll think twice about fumbling away the advantage of incumbency in a presidential election year like 2024, when she’ll be back on the ballot and Republicans will be out in force that November to try to take back government.

Update: Sinema responds.